Being a creative writing major, I’ve seen and heard my fair share of reactions from people who find out my field of study. Oftentimes, it’s regarded as something pursued purely out of passion, as it has little to no practical value in their eyes. Granted, the skills are transferable to other areas like professional and technical writing, but making a living as a published author is regarded as an unattainable dream by many.
Art is criticized for its attempt at being a “noble pursuit.” The study of literature is lofty and hallowed, but creative writing isn’t necessarily championed as such. Critics of creative writing say that it’s “not rocket science,” or that it’s “not curing cancer,” but art is capable of being more than simple entertainment or a brief respite from reality.
Much like how music therapy is taught across college campuses and implemented in hospitals and other places of care, creative writing can similarly benefit people.
Chatham University in Pittsburgh has a program in league with their MFA in creative writing, called Words Without Walls. In the program, graduate students with an interest in creative writing pedagogy can conduct workshops and the like with certain prisoners at the Allegheny County Jail. This isn’t the only writing-centric rehabilitative implemented in a prison either. In many other institutions, creative writing is regarded as a tool that helps inmates consider the crimes they had committed and how and if they’ve changed in the time they’ve spent incarcerated.
There is also promise with creative writing as a tool for aiding sobriety with drug addicts. Like how prisoners are called upon to consider the past and the consequences of action, the
addicts address any issues with their respective addictions and their plans for maintaining a clean and healthy lifestyle.
But creative writing’s benefits aren’t limited to prisoners and addicts. No, it can help people with medical issues, mental and/or physical. For many, writing is like therapy, able to provide some sort of catharsis for the artist. Those who have suddenly become disabled or face some life-threatening illness have been encouraged to pursue writing as a way to manage thoughts, retain a sense of self, and to concern themselves with something other than mortality.
The benefits extend beyond the rehabilitative too! After school programs that assist kids and those in the community with writing workshops and publishing opportunities foster positive and constructive attitudes and give many a sense of purpose. Being relatively inexpensive to teach and produce, creative writing is perfect for disenfranchised communities looking to get their voices heard and message spread.
Creative writing is more than exciting stories, titillating turns of phrase, and utterly brilliant artistic expression. It’s a way for people to heal; to develop into truer versions of themselves. And it’s about time creative writing is recognized for what it is capable of. There can only be many more wonderful things we are able to do with it.